Yes, love is not violent. Rachel Lim, 29, says it well. She has recovered well too. She said that love and violence cannot co-exist. Actually, love ought to overcome violence because where there is love, there is no hate.
When Rachel met Clarence Teo Shun Jie in 2017, it was love at first sight. In an interview with Wong Kim Hoh, she said it was instant attraction. “I’ve never felt such an electrifying connection with anyone. Things went well for a while.”
However, it took just one month into the relationship before Clarence, then a doctor, “punched her face...after suddenly grilling her about her past relationships.” It was a serious assault that caused her to bleed all over his bed sheets.
Rachel said: “I was shocked beyond words. I thought maybe he had mental health issues and that he didn’t know what he was doing. I thought if he were willing to go into therapy, there could be a chance for us.”
Here’s some context...
This is not the first time Rachel was exposed to violence. She was in fact born into a family where violence was common. She said this about her middle-class parents and elder brother. “I’m estranged from my family. They were emotionally, psychologically and physically abusive as well.”
She had lodged police reports against her father and her brother, for acts of violence. It was so bad that she couldn’t focus on her studies and thought of ending her life. She told Wong that she cut her arms when she was in her teens. Neighbours could even hear her screams.
At 22, she packed up and left her family after a fight with her father. Rachel then rented “a small room in Ang Mo Kio and for a couple of years made a living as a journalist, writing for titles such as Wine & Dine; the Asian edition of BBC GoodFood; and Food & Travel.”
Clarence was not her first boyfriend. Before him was another but it did not last. When “stress and accumulated angst conspired to push her into depression,” she attempted suicide. This time she cut her thigh. Her then boyfriend hurried her to the hospital for immediate treatment. He also broke off the relationship there and then.
After that, she met Clarence. That instant attraction led to the second occasion of violence when Clarence “waylaid her when she was on her way to work, pushed her into his car, took her home and abused her for more than 10 hours.”
Rachel again tried to her to take her life after Clarence’s second assault. Rachel checked into a hotel and ingested dozens of pills. Fortunately for her, her Godma looked for her and found her in the hotel. They broke the door down and rushed her for treatment.
The third and final beating was the worst. It happened in August 2017. When Rachel refused Clarence’s demands for sex, he was so enraged that “he smashed her face with his fists, breaking her nose, leaving multiple fractures and causing her brain to bleed.”
Mind you, the beating did not end until Clarence’s father called the police and have his own son arrested.
Rachel recalled that “doctors had to fix, among other things, her nose, her eye sockets m and her little finger which broke while fending off his blows.” She said, “I had brain haemorrhage and if it didn’t go away, I could have died.”
“Last year, (Clarence) was sentenced to three years, six months and two weeks’ jail with four strokes of the cane. He was also fined $4,000. Two months ago, he was struck off the Register of medical practitioners.”
Lesson? I have one.
I fleshed out Rachel’s story because it has a happy ending, well, at least at this point of her life. She truly deserves it anyway. Wong wrote that she is now in a loving and respectful relationship with a design engineer, who’s also a musician. They have been dating for the last two years.
I wish them well, and hope that their love this time will be strong and the commitment to make it work even stronger.
The last two violent relationships she was in was of different durations (so to speak). One for decades (she left her family at 22) and the other for six months (that’s how long her relationship with Clarence was). I caveat that they are different of course, one is with family (whose bond is not irredeemable) and the other I consider a date (which ought to be severed for good).
Her advice in the article was this: “Get out. Love and violence cannot co-exist.”
I agree with that. Love and violence cannot co-exist. Love and betrayal cannot co-exist too. And love and apathy, well, one day, the bough will break. But human love is not pure, especially the untested ones.
One columnist Tim Park wrily describes modern marriages as such: -
“In this finely managed, career structured world we’ve worked so hard to build, with its automatic gates and hissing lawns, its comprehensive insurance policies, divorce remains one of the few catastrophes we can reasonably expect to provoke, offering a truly spectacular shipwreck. Oh to do some serious damage at last!”
There is no “comprehensive insurance coverage” for a union of two broken human beings. Time will test their devotion and commitment. No doubt Christians often view marriages as an act of God (refer to Genesis and the Garden of Eden) but a spouse who turns into someone you can no longer recognise is no less an “act of god”, that is, in insurance lingo, it becomes circumstances beyond your control.
Recently, I received a caller who told me that for many years she and her husband were estranged. They were emotionally separated, but physically together. Yet, his behaviour became worse. He drinks. He gets violent. He hit her. He even hit his adult daughter.
With a tinge of desperation in her voice, she said he has changed so much that she wonders whether he is still the same person who walked down the aisle just to say “I do” to her. But then, she paused for a while, and told me this, as a Christian, God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16).
Well, I was wondering, who goes into marriage thinking about divorce along the way? It is like saying “I do” and then whispering “I don’t think so”.
You can’t get more certain at the celebrating altar before a crowd of well-wishers. The circumstances demand your certainty. It is externally compelled (so to speak).
But certainty is a nurturing response, and love in overcoming together strengthens that certainty through the forging of two hearts into one. Over the years, that certainty is earned and it becomes an intrinsic commitment that lasts a lifetime. That is no doubt an ideal, but it is also the oxygen that love seeks to thrive in.
So, not only God, but everyone at the wedding feast hates divorce. More so, during the honeymoon, or at the nursery, when you first hold your new born in your arms. Marriage is about the birth of a new life, and you have to brace yourselves for the challenges ahead as the two of you journey together in this new life.
We tend to forget that yes, God hates divorce, but God also sent his son. On the one hand is the perfect and on the other, Calvary. Between that, it is where all human relationships strive to find their way, either towards Calvary or away from it.
But divorces do not mean that he/she steps away from Calvary. It may very well be part of the journey he/she takes to find the one who is willing to join a heart broken with another who is equally broken, if not more so.
That is why I wish Rachel the best of love, of overcoming, of growth and of nurtured certainty. A soul who never gives up looking for love, not necessarily marital in nature, will find it in a community that is also seeking the same thing.